The monetary value of a volunteer's time is now estimated at $20.85/hour,* as per The Independent Sector. Accordingly, I'm donating over $250 (12 hours) to Wild Bird Rehab (WBR) over the coming weekend. Normally, during the breeding season I work six hours/week at WBR, but we are going to be short-staffed on Saturdays for the next month and a half, hence my additional time commitment.**
Speaking of WBR, one of our thoughtful volunteers has begun posting videos of the youngins on his YouTube channel, which will give me the opportunity to introduce you to some of them, as follows--
My guess is that this video was taken on Monday the 24th. When I attended these guys on the 28th (the following Friday) they had already sprouted feathers! All five of them were alert, feisty, and hopping around like miniature adults. I anticipate that by the time I see them again tomorrow, they'll probably be smoking cigars and chasing after tail (see how I punned there?). No more lousy incubators for them!
What I particularly fancied about the above video is that it demonstrates how easily one of the babies can sleep while nestmates are all going mad for food. I just about lost it with glee when the volunteer in this video finally tapped the unresponsive, sleepy hatchling out of exasperation and, without missing a beat, he promptly lifted his diminutive head out of a sound stupor and gamely gaped for food. Such a charming little moppet-headed fellow.
Notice, too, how the "itty bitties" in this video look like something out of a Sesame Street skit with their over-sized, split-melon shaped heads and lemon-yellow lined, hot pink mouths. This is particularly true of the European Starlings. Those birds are freaking evolutionary power-houses. Not only can you inconceivably visually overlook their gaping mouths, but they also produce deafening tweets comparable in decibel to a car alarm. At the beginning of May we were admitting new nests of twelve or more of these baby starlings each day, so you can only imagine the cacophony in our nursery!
This little dude is no longer in the alcove (where we keep our youngest birds). You can easily discern by his noble temperament, that he is growing up. Although, to be sure, Bluebirds (BB) are inherently more dignified than a lot of the other native birds we rescue. You do not hear the fledgling BB begging for food very often, although they will certainly accept it, when offered--provided that the meal is of a variety that they prefer. Notice, at the start of this video, he immediately gaped for blood worms (the bright red food) that were offered to him, but when the volunteer dangled a beige-colored meal worm (MW), he stubbornly refused to open his beak. Older BB love, love LOVE crickets. It is not unusual to see a little post-it on the front of their cages saying, "Please feed me lots of crickets!" We'll keep the MW in their cages for when they start to self-feed (since the MW are alive, they keep better than frozen crickets), but when offered a crickety snack they positively glow with appreciation.
Funny story about BB, last season I had made friends with one (which really isn't a good plan - since they are wild birds and shouldn't at all be domesticated). Whenever I would walk into the nursery, he would joyfully sing his little heart out to me and I would do my best to whistle his call back at him. It got to the point where we would spend the entire evening warmly chirping at each other, as I made my rounds to the other cages. My fellow volunteers would good-naturedly chide me about it, "You stop singing at that BB! He is going to think he has a friend in here!" To which I would hotly reply, "But he DOES have a friend here!" Unlike a lot of our other birds, it is rare to have multiple BB come in together, so they tend to be in private cages - which I think is unfairly lonely for them.
If you are curious to learn more about our birds, you can find them at this YouTube channel. I'll be sure to keep posting blogs about them, as breeding season continues, and should anyone be interested in donating time (or money), you can get in contact with us through WBR's website. Many thanks, in advance, to anyone agreeable to giving to our lovely birds!
*Which is more than I get paid at my day job!
**Peripherally, Julia Rose took her algebra final yesterday, so I have a bit more free time on my hands until her fall semester begins. We've worked so diligently this past school year on her algebra lessons that I feel as though I'm on summer vacation, too.